the things we carried
Last night, Tim O'Brien came to speak at a local school. He is the author of the much anthologized "The Things They Carried", and many novels. He has recently turned that short story into a book, all revolving around the theme of the original story.

"The Things They Carried" is about an infantry group in Vietnam; the story of their experience told, literally, according to the things they carried. There is a plot, but it isn't linear; you know where the story is going from the outset, his description dosen't so much get you there as much as fill it out.

Reading the story is more like looking at a snapshot than watching a movie. The whole scene is a stillshot; the prose is poetic, descriptive. The effect that O'Brien achieves is a sense of reality.

For combat vets, the scene is remarkably, almost disturbingly familiar. O'Brien is reading your memory, putting you back in the moment. A lot of the details may be differant, but you've been there: perhaps with differant equipment, perhaps a differant situation, but you've been there.

For civilians, this story is a vicious, touching taste of the daily life of a soldier. Oddly, non-military types seem more affected by the story than vets. Several incedents seem shocking, all the more so because they are told with such casualness; but the casual nature of it is a part of living the life.

Either way, his writing is the most accurate, and effective, piece of war-story I've seen or read. It reminds me of "A Day in the Life of Ivan Dinisovitch", only much less boring; it is a perfect rendition of "A Day in the Life".

Which is all the more surprising because, strictly speaking, O'Brien's stories aren't true. He is a Vietnam Vet, but the stories he tells mostly never happened. I get nervous when people start fooling around with the word "Truth", and the ambiguity it leaves, but in this case O'Brien has managed to deliver the truth through fiction. He has taken what he saw and, in a process known to many as "Telling war-stories", he has hit home on the reality of war. It isn't "True", but it is the Truth.

(To be continued...)


howdy, thanks for stopping by. what you're looking at is the intermittent ramblings of an iraqi vet, college student, goth-poseur, comic book reading, cheesy horror loving, punk listening, right-leaning, tech-obsessed, poorly typing, proudly self-proclaimed geek. occasionally, probably due to these odd combinations, i like to think i have some interesting things to say; this is where they wind up.

"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us...We need the books that affect us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside of us.

ace o spades hq
bargain-basement allahpundit
a small victory
army of mom
babalu blog
beautiful atrocities
being american in t o
belmont club
blame bush!
castle argghhh!
citizen smash
the command post
common sense runs wild
curmudgeonly & skeptical, r
curmudgeonly & skeptical, pg-13
dean's world
drill sergeant rob
exit zero
enjoy every sandwich
feisty repartee
fistful of fortnights
free will
four right wing wacos
ghost of a flea
half the sins of mankind
the hatemonger's quarterly
hog on ice
house of plum
id's cage
ilyka damen
incoherant ramblings
in dc journal
the jawa report
knowledge is power
lileks bleat
the llama butchers
memento moron
the mudville gazette
naked villainy
nerf-coated world
those damned pajama people
professor chaos
professor shade
the protocols of the yuppies of zion
protein wisdom
the queen of all evil
seven inches of sense
shinobi, who is a f'n numbers ninja, yo
tall dark and mathteriouth
the nose on your face
the thearapist
this is class warfare
texas best grok
tim worstall
way off bass

other must reads: